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The History of Dialectical Behavior Therapy | Michael’s House

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Treatment for Three Decades and Counting

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Therapists and counselors constantly search for new and innovative ways to treat patients with a mental illness, an eating disorder, a drug addiction and other potentially life-threatening conditions.

Couple meeting with therapistOne of the newest and most exciting forms of treatment is dialectical behavior therapy(DBT). This form of therapy engages the individual and teaches them how to deal more productively with social situations that bring about the unwanted behaviors. DBT focuses on being more tolerant of others who have a different opinion and how to control one’s emotions to receive more effective treatment.

The Core Teachings of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

At the core of DBT treatment are the following principals:

  • Mindfulness. DBT uses Zen teachings to help the individual become more mindful of those around them.
  • Interpersonal Skills. DBT helps individuals become more assertive in their association with other people -specifically, learning how to say “No” to others and how to effectively cope with those who see the world differently.
  • Regulating Emotions. DBT creates a keen understanding of how certain situations make the patient feel -and helps retrain them so that they respond in a more positive manner to these potential conflicts.
  • Tolerance. Tolerance, as it is discussing in DBT, refers to tolerating the challenges that life presents -and learning to live life “one day at a time” in order to overcome mental illness or addiction.

A Brief History of Dialectical Behavior Therapy

During the 1970’s and 1980’s therapists struggled to a find an effective treatment method for individuals who repeatedly attempted suicide. The central problem was the patient’s lack of self-confidence or positive thinking during therapy. As a result, the patients were constantly trying to commit suicide. Since so much time was spent working to treat this situation, it left little time to focus on the issues that could enact real change in the patient’s life.

In the early 1990’s, Dr. Marsha Linehan developed an alternative therapy to treat her borderline personality disorder patients. Instead of having a one-way conversation with the patient, the therapist would engage him through the use of real world examples to elicit the desired responses. One by one, Linehan was able to teach her patients how to react differently in a variety of situations. This process removes the obstacles to treatment that had confused therapists treating suicidal patients.1 In a recent study, DBT has proven especially effective in reducing self-injurious behavior, suicide attempts, and inpatient treatment days.2

DBT has also been used to treat alcohol addiction and drug addiction. DBT has produced positive results in both of these groups and is now a fixture at treatment centers around the country. Michael’s House is one of the leading residential rehab facilities in California and is also one of the few treatment programs that offer dialectical behavior therapy.

For more information, contact Michael’s House today at 760.548.4032.


1 "An Overview of Dialectical Behavior Therapy." Psych Central. N.p., 17 July 2016. Web. Accessed 18 July 2017.

2 Stiglmayr, Christian, Stecher-Mohr, Julia and Wagner, Till, "Effectiveness of dialectic behavioral therapy in routine outpatient care: the Berlin Borderline Study." Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation. BioMed Central, 18 Dec. 2014. Web. Accessed 18 July 2017.